Campaign 2012

At GOP Debate, Bachmann Jumps Into Presidential Race

Katy O'Donnell, Beth Reinhard and Alex Roarty
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Katy O'Donnell Beth Reinhard Alex Roarty
June 13, 2011, 12:44 p.m.

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Pre­sumed Re­pub­lic­an front-run­ner Mitt Rom­ney came through Monday night’s pres­id­en­tial de­bate un­scathed — with one ex­cep­tion. The man most see as Rom­ney’s chief rival, Tim Pawlenty, did land one punch against the health care bill that Rom­ney passed as gov­ernor of Mas­sachu­setts, which con­ser­vat­ive crit­ics say was the pre­curs­or to Pres­id­ent Obama’s health care le­gis­la­tion. 

“In or­der to pro­sec­ute the case against the pres­id­ent, you have to show you have a dif­fer­ent plan and a bet­ter plan,” Pawlenty said. But des­pite the cri­ti­cism, he de­clined to re­peat the term he coined Sunday, “Obam­ney­care,” even as de­bate host John King prod­ded him to do so. 

That lone barb was the ex­tent of the cri­ti­cism that faced Rom­ney on Monday, in a de­bate that out­lined the can­did­ates’ po­s­i­tion on a wide range of so­cial, eco­nom­ic, and fisc­al is­sues. The most news­worthy item: Rep. Michele Bach­mann, R-Minn., form­ally de­clared she is run­ning for pres­id­ent, us­ing the na­tion­al stage in a highly un­usu­al set­ting for the an­nounce­ment. 

Rom­ney’s most not­able an­swer might have come when he was asked about Afgh­anistan, when he said he wants troops with­drawn “not based on polit­ics, not based on eco­nom­ics, but based on the con­di­tions on the ground.” The ex-gov­ernor ad­ded that the na­tion has learned it can’t fight an­oth­er “war of in­de­pend­ence” for oth­er coun­tries.

The can­did­ates wer­en’t uni­fied on every ques­tion, but they were usu­ally close. Of the sev­en can­did­ates on stage, only Her­man Cain and Ron Paul dis­sen­ted when asked if they would re­in­state “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Pres­id­ent Obama has ordered re­peal of the con­tro­ver­sial policy bar­ring gays from serving openly in the mil­it­ary. Cain and Paul were again the only can­did­ates who said they’d leave the de­cision to the states when asked if there should be a con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment de­fin­ing mar­riage as between a man and a wo­man.

Demo­crat­ic Na­tion­al Chair­wo­man Debbie Wasser­man Schultz is­sued a state­ment mo­ments after the de­bate, ac­cus­ing the GOP can­did­ates of want­ing to re­turn to the policies en­acted un­der former pres­id­ent George W. Bush. 

“The eco­nom­ic re­ces­sion in Amer­ica wasn’t caused by bad luck,” the Flor­ida con­gress­wo­man said. “It was caused by bad Re­pub­lic­an policies.”

Here’s our live-blog of the de­bate.

Pu­tat­ivRe­pub­lic­an front-run­ner Mitt Rom­ney came through Monday night’s pres­id­en­tial de­bate — with one ex­cep­tion. The man most see as Rom­ney’s chief rival, Tim Pawlenty, did land at least one punch against the he­lath-care bill he passed in Mas­sachu­setts, which con­ser­vat­ive crit­ics say was the pre­cus­sor to Pres­id­ent Obama’s health care le­gis­la­tion.  “In or­der to pro­sec­ute the case against the pres­id­ent, you have to show you have a dif­fer­ent plan and a bet­ter plan,” he said. But des­pite the cri­ti­cism, he de­clined to re­peat the term he coined Sunday, “Obam­ney­care,” even as de­bate host John King prod­ded him to do so.  That lone barb was the ex­tent of the cri­ti­cism that faced Rom­ney on Monday, Pu­tat­ive Re­pub­lic­an front-run­ner Mitt Rom­ney came through Monday night’s pres­id­en­tial de­bate — with one ex­cep­tion. The man most see as Rom­ney’s chief rival, Tim Pawlenty, did land at least one punch against the he­lath-care bill he passed in Mas­sachu­setts, which con­ser­vat­ive crit­ics say was the pre­cus­sor to Pres­id­ent Obama’s health care le­gis­la­tion. “In or­der to pro­sec­ute the case against the pres­id­ent, you have to show you have a dif­fer­ent plan and a bet­ter plan,” he said. But des­pite the cri­ti­cism, he de­clined to re­peat the term he coined Sunday, “Obam­ney­care,” even as de­bate host John King prod­ded him to do so. That lone barb was the ex­tent of the cri­ti­cism that faced Rom­ney on Monday,

9:55 p.m. Pawlenty gave an un­equi­voc­al en­dorse­ment of Sarah Pal­in, say­ing the former gov­ernor of Alaska would make a much bet­ter pres­id­ent than cur­rent Vice Pres­id­ent Joe Biden. “Gov­ernor Pal­in is a re­mark­able lead­er, and is qual­i­fied to be the pres­id­ent of the United States,” he said.  

9:50 p.m. San­tor­um cri­ti­cized “Amer­ica’s feck­less­ness in deal­ing with the threats that con­front us.” He said the United States needs to “en­gage our al­lies and have our al­lies know we have their back. The pres­id­ent has not done that. “¦our en­emies no longer re­spect us, our friends no longer trust us.”

9:48 p.m. Gin­grich blas­ted the Amer­ic­an in­tel­li­gence com­munity for what he calls a lack of in­form­a­tion in Libya, say­ing it ne­ces­sit­ates an en­tirely new strategy in the re­gion. “Ten years after 9/11, our in­tel­li­gence is so in­ad­equate, we have no idea how many Liby­an rebels are in fact al-Qaeda,” he said.

9:43 p.m. Paul said he did “not quite” agree with Rom­ney’s state­ment that he would bring home Amer­ic­an troops if gen­er­als on the ground in Afgh­anistan said it was time to do so. “I wouldn’t wait for my gen­er­als,” Paul said. “I’m the com­mand­er-in-chief, I tell the gen­er­als what to do, and I bring them home as quickly as pos­sible. “¦We should learn the les­sons of his­tory, and the longer we’re there, the worse things are”¦our pres­ence there is not mak­ing friends, let me tell you.”

9:42 p.m. Asked about Afgh­anistan, Rom­ney os­tens­ib­liy re­jec­ted us­ing the cost of the war as a reas­on to with­draw troops. “I want those troops to come home not based on polit­ics, not based on eco­nom­ics, but based on the con­di­tions on the ground,” he said. But the ex-gov­ernor ad­ded that only Afgh­anistan’s nat­ive cit­izens can “win the coun­try’s in­de­pend­ence” from the Taliban. 

9:37 p.m. Iowa alert: San­tor­um said he sup­ports phas­ing out eth­an­ol sub­sidies over the course of five years. The in­dustry has come a long way in re­cent years, he said. “They are ac­tu­ally cap­able of sur­viv­ing, do­ing quite well, go­ing on their own.”

9:35 p.m. Dur­ing an ex­change on im­mig­ra­tion, Gin­grich says that the Con­gress is “nev­er go­ing to pass a com­pre­hens­ive bill” and in­sists that the choice between ex­pelling the mil­lions of im­mig­rants now in the coun­try and giv­ing them all cit­izen­ship is a false one. “There are hu­mane, prac­tic­al solu­tions to this prob­lem” he says, but does not elab­or­ate.

9:27 p.m. Pawlenty: “I am solidly pro-life”¦and I haven’t just talked about these things. I’ve done it.”

9:25 p.m. Most of the can­did­ates said they would work to re­in­state the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy ban­ning gays from serving openly in the mil­it­ary — ex­cept, again, Cain and Paul. But Rom­ney left a little wiggle room to al­low gays to serve later on. “I be­lieve don’t ask, don’t tell should be kept in place un­til the con­flict is over,” he said.

9:22 p.m. Asked if anti-gay mar­riage le­gis­la­tion should be a state de­cision or should be a Con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment, all can­did­ates ex­cept Cain and Paul said it should be left to a Con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment. Bach­mann re­it­er­ated, however, she would not cam­paign in any state to over­turn their law.

9:19 p.m. Bach­mann drew ap­plause when she said it is not “the role of the pres­id­ent” to go in­to the states to re­peal laws like the one in New Hamp­shire al­low­ing gays to marry.

9:17 p.m. Rom­ney, at times cri­ti­cized for be­ing mech­an­ic­al, bor­ing or aloof, says he def­in­itely prefers spicy wings, and “by the way, Bru­ins are up 4-0.”

9:11 p.m. Rom­ney, in re­sponse to Cain’s state­ment that he is against Sharia law en­ter­ing the Amer­ic­an justice sys­tem: “Of course we’re not go­ing to have Sharia law in U.S. courts”¦we have a con­sti­tu­tion.” Rom­ney ad­ded, “Our na­tion was foun­ded on a prin­ciple of re­li­gious tol­er­ance.”

9:10 p.m. Cain de­fen­ded him­self against earli­er re­marks that he would not ap­point a Muslim to his ad­min­is­tra­tion, re­it­er­at­ing that al­though he might give a Muslim a job, he’s not ne­ces­sar­ily com­fort­able with the re­li­gious group. “I would not be com­fort­able be­cause you have peace­ful Muslims, and you have mil­it­ant muslims, those who are try­ing to kills us,” Cain said. He also said he would op­pose any at­tempts to im­pose Sharia law in the coun­try. 

9:06 p.m. Pawlenty just gave a stand­ard Re­pub­lic­an re­sponse when asked about the sep­ar­a­tion of church and state in the Con­sti­tu­tion. “The pro­tec­tions were de­signed to pro­tect people of faith from gov­ern­ment, not gov­ern­ment from people of faith.”

9:05 p.m. Bach­mann used Obama’s words against him on the debt lim­it, say­ing she won’t vote to in­crease it and that the pres­id­ent has shown a “fail­ure of lead­er­ship” ““ a phrase then-Sen. Obama used when he voted against an in­crease un­der Pres­id­ent George W. Bush in 2006.

8:57 p.m. Gin­grich, prod­ded on his re­versal on Rep. Paul Ry­an’s Medi­care pro­pos­al — which he ini­tially likened to “rad­ic­al so­cial en­gin­eer­ing” be­fore walk­ing back his com­ments ““ said his “words were taken en­tirely out of con­text.” He ad­ded, though, “If you can’t con­vince the Amer­ic­an people it’s a good idea, maybe it’s not a good idea.” Gin­grich sug­ges­ted $720 bil­lion can be saved an­nu­ally by elim­in­at­ing fraud in Medi­care.

8:56 p.m. Pawlenty said his plan to re­form Medi­care “will let Medi­care con­tin­ue as an op­tion,” a dif­fer­ence from the budget offered Rep. Paul Ry­an, R-Wisc.

8:51 p.m. Gin­grich was just asked wheth­er he prefers Amer­ic­an Idol or Dan­cing with the Stars. “Amer­ic­an Idol,” he re­spon­ded, without hes­it­a­tion. 

8:50 p.m. Rom­ney just gave Re­pub­lic­an voters a little red meat when asked what gov­ern­ment pro­grams should be cut. The ques­tion isn’t what pro­grams should be cut, he said, it’s what pro­grams should be kept. “We can­not af­ford to do those thing without joe­opard­iz­ing the fu­ture for our kids,” Rom­ney said. “It is simply im­mor­al in my view to rack up lar­ger and lrager debts for our kids.”

8:47 p.m. Pawlenty said the coun­try’s ail­ing hous­ing mar­ket is a res­ult of “mi­cro­man­aging” politi­cians who in­ter­vened. “They cre­ated the bubble, they cre­ated the mess,” said Pawlenty. 

8:45 p.m. Gin­grich says “we’re not a de­veloped coun­try.”

8:38 p.m. Cain de­fen­ded his sup­port of TARP, ac­know­ledging he sup­por­ted the pro­gram at first but quickly backed off when its role ex­pan­ded. “Gov­ern­ment should not be se­lect­ing win­ners and losers, and I don’t be­lieve in this concept of ‘too big to fail.’”

8:37 p.m. Ap­plause line: Paul says, “It’s a fal­lacy to think that gov­ern­ment, politi­cians and bur­eau­crats are smart enough” to con­trol the eco­nomy through sub­sidies to private en­ter­prise.

8:30 p.m. In re­sponse to a ques­tion about right-to-work laws and uni­ons, Pawlenty answered: “People shouldn’t be forced to be in a mem­ber of any party,” adding as the audi­ence ap­plauded, “I sup­port strongly right-to-work le­gis­la­tion.”

8:28 p.m. Bach­mann said Re­pub­lic­ans need to pass the “moth­er-of-all re­peal bills” — start­ing with the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency. “There’s no oth­er agency like the EPA ““ it should be re­named job-killing or­gan­iz­a­tion of Amer­ica”

8:22 p.m. Bach­mann, in re­sponse to a ques­tion from the same New Hamp­shire voter con­cerned about the pull of both the tea party and liber­tari­ans on the Re­pub­lic­an Party, says that the tea party com­prises a “wide swath of Amer­ica com­ing to­geth­er,” not a polit­ic­ally rad­ic­al minor­ity. “I think that’s why the left fears it so much,” she said.

8:20 p.m. San­tor­um, ad­dress­ing a voter who asked about can­did­ates’ abil­ity to ap­peal to the main­stream to win the gen­er­al elec­tion: “I draf­ted the Con­tract with Amer­ica wel­fare re­form bill.”¦ I got 70 votes to end a fed­er­al en­ti­tle­ment.”¦ And I led, I got the bi­par­tis­an sup­port.”

8:16 p.m. Pawlenty and Rom­ney just ex­changed the de­bate’s first fire­works. Rom­ney, seek­ing to dif­fer­en­ti­ate his health care plan from Obama’s, said the pres­id­ent’s bill raised taxes, in­creased spend­ing and raided Medi­care. But asked to re­spond to Rom­ney, Pawlenty sug­ges­ted his health care plan will ham­string him in a match­up with the pres­id­ent. “In or­der to pro­sec­ute the case against the pres­id­ent, you have to show you have a dif­fer­ent plan and a bet­ter plan,” the ex-Min­nesota gov­ernor said. He de­clined, however, to re­peat the term he coined Sunday, re­fer­ring to Rom­ney’s plan as “Obam­ney­care.”

8:14 p.m. Bach­mann: “I was the very first mem­ber of Con­gress to in­tro­duce the full re­peal of Obama­care “¦ This is the sym­bol and the sig­na­ture is­sue of Pres­id­ent Obama dur­ing his en­tire ten­ure”¦This is a job-killer”¦What could the pres­id­ent be think­ing by passing a bill like this, know­ing full well it could kill 800,000 jobs?”

8:11 p.m. Bach­mann form­ally an­nounces, live and on stage, that she’s run­ning for pres­id­ent. 

8:11 p.m. Asked about Pawlenty’s plan, Rom­ney transitioned in­to a cri­tique of Obama: “Look, Tim has the right in­stincts, which is, he re­cog­nizes what this pres­id­ent has done is slow the eco­nomy,” Rom­ney said, cit­ing the state of un­em­ploy­ment, hous­ing prices and fore­clos­ures. “This pres­id­ent has failed, and he’s failed at a time when the Amer­ic­an people coun­ted on him”¦the ideas Tim de­scribed, those are in the right wheel­house.” 

8:10 p.m.: Tim Pawlenty called cri­ti­cism of his eco­nom­ic plan, which pre­dicts five per­cent an­nu­al growth if en­acted, “hog­wash.” Pawlenty said: “If China can have five per­cent growth, if Brazil can have five per­cent growth, if the United States of Amer­ica can have five per­cent growth,” . 

8:07 p.m. Asked about Pawlenty’s eco­nom­ic plan, which calls for sig­ni­fic­ant tax cuts and pro­jects 5 per­cent an­nu­al growth over 10 years, San­tor­um de­murred: “I think we need a pres­id­ent who’s op­tim­ist­ic, who has a pro-growth agenda. I’m not go­ing to com­ment on 5 per­cent or 4 per­cent” growth.

8:01 p.m. Can­did­ates give open­ing state­ments. San­tor­um touts “ex­ec­ut­ive ex­per­i­ence.” Bach­mann brings up her ex­per­i­ence as tax law­yer. Gin­grich cites “Obama De­pres­sion.” Rom­ney: “Hope­fully I’ll get it right this year.” Paul: “I de­livered…4,000 ba­bies”; also says he wants to de­fend Con­sti­tu­tion. Pawlenty: “I’ve got the ex­per­i­ence and lead­er­ship and res­ults.” Cain: “I am not a politi­cian—I am a prob­lem-solv­er.”

7:54 p.m. The de­baters are on stage, with minutes to go be­fore show-time.

The Sun­light Found­a­tion, with par­ti­cipants in­clud­ing Na­tion­al Journ­al’s Tim Fernholz, will be fact-check­ing the de­baters to­night. And for a taste of what re­port­ers ex­per­i­ence in the de­bate hall and in their email boxes dur­ing and after the de­bate, check out our vir­tu­al spin room, where we’re com­pil­ing tweets from the can­did­ates and their aides. Want to get un­spun? Check out ana­lys­is on the go from Na­tion­al Journ­al and Hot­line ed­it­ors.

(Re­in­hard is re­port­ing from Manchester; Roarty and O’Don­nell are re­port­ing from Wash­ing­ton)

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